Shadd Cary did not struggle with just racism but also with misogyny and sexism. In his description of Shadd, Frederick Douglass wrote that we do not know her equal among the coloured ladies of the United States. [She possesses] unceasing industry,... Unconquerable zeal and commendable ability... The tone of her paper has been, at times, harsh and complaining. (2) The author notes that there is a contradiction between respect and derision that he shows here. (3) When the paper first started, the decision was made to have a male editor be publicly announced. Samuel Ringgold Ward was officially the editor. Historians think that he was named this position because of his frequent contributions and his fame in the black community. In this way, the paper would remain respectable in the eyes of the public. It would avoid comments like those by Douglass. Her contributions to the press did not go unnoticed, however. By 1855, the majority of letters were addressed to the editeress of the Provincial Freeman. (4) In 1856, the editors were announced publicly to be three people, two of whom were male, one of whom being Mary Add Shadd Cary's brother Isaac. Shadd Cary provides a notable example of how women were able to exploit the expectation that women had a moral authority rightfully exercised in their families. By talking about issues of abolition and temperance, the Provincial Freeman accepted this authority of the female voice, but expanded its reach in the public sphere.
The Provincial Freeman ended in Chatham in 1858 in the wake of the events surrounding the Demarest Rescue and financial pressures on the Shadds.By the 1850s, Chatham was known for its thriving African American/African Canadian community and was dubbed the Black Mecca. The Provincial Freeman was a vital part of the abolitionist culture of Chatham, and remains a rich source of evidence on Black women, first-wave feminism, and abolition in the Great Lakes region.
1 Alexander L. Murray The Provincial Freeman: A New Source for the History of the Negro in Canada and the United States. The Journal of Negro History 44, no.2(1959):1232135, 126
2 Jane Rhodes. Mary Ann Shadd Cary: The Black Press and Protest in the 19th Century. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998, xi
4 Alexander L. Murray The Provincial Freeman: A New Source for the History of the Negro in Canada and the United States. The Journal of Negro History 44, no.2 (1959):1232135, 125